Not Listening – What Does It Truly Cost Your Organization in Dollars and Cents?

From the time we are born, listening is a skill acquired and used primarily before any of the other senses.  Throughout youth and the teen years, we rely heavily on listening to learn from school and parents.  It is also during this time that we develop the skills of communicating.

An old rhyme goes like this; “A wise old owl sat on an oak; the more he saw, the less he spoke.  The less he spoke, the more he heard; why aren’t we like that wise old bird?”

Why is it then, with such an aptitude of listening that is developed from the time we are born – perhaps even one the most used of our senses – do we fail to continue listening the older we get?

It seems as though listening is a skill that worsens throughout the growing years, as other skills develop and take precedence. By the time people face adulthood they have also faced many bad experiences.  One human instinct is to “tune it out” after awhile.  For example, a kid who hears his parents fighting a lot growing up may try to drone out the unwanted sound by blaring music loudly in his bedroom.  Or, a child who has faced ridicule from peers may tune out those feelings of rejection by simply not listening to people any longer.

Another reason people don’t listen well as adults is because they have mastered the art of talking.  Naturally egocentric as humans, we like to talk about ourselves or about things we like.  Over time, this can lead to interrupting.  Ifsomeone is not listening to what you have to say they may interrupt frequently.  That is because they are on a train of thought and are too unaware that the natural order of conversing back and forth means

‘You talk, then I listen; then I talk, and You listen.”

Yet a wise old sage once said; “We have been given two ears but one single mouth, in order that we may listen more and talk less.” Good point.

Let’s go back to the owl.  As an observer, the wise owl mastered listening and was able to capture his surroundings.  Think how much more people would be able to take in mentally if they truly heard everything that was going on around them.  In the spy movies, the secret agent is always quiet; hence he always knows what’s going on and is a stealthy step ahead of the bad guys.

In an abstract sense, perception impairs the ability to talk and listen adequately causing gaps between the subconscious intent of the leader and what subsequent results may follow.  Some leaders intend to ‘bring down’ others in order to fluff up their own ego. This can be a sign of self-doubt.  Those are leaders who got promoted because of making their presence known, loudly!  The quiet leaders are the motivators.  They quietly know what the capabilities are of their subordinates, so they don’t need to yell in order to motivate them.  This enforces the aspect of trust on behalf of the leader and the follower.  It could be said that leaders are quiet motivators with abundant wisdom, most of which they acquired by listening more and speaking less.

The people who listen are known as wise, well respected and sought-after for advice. People trust them.  That is because they are leaders, who absorb information by listening more and talking less.  They have mastered the art of listening, hearing and implementing. They have gained respect and trust.

To listen well is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well,
and is as essential to all true conversation.
–          Chinese Proverb

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Are You a Trivial Leader or a Vital Leader?

This is the first article in a series of 6 helping you answer the question…Are You a Trivial Leader or a Vital Leader…a catalyst for employee greatness! 

Vital leaders master 6 crucial skills required to unleash the full creative powers of every employee in accomplishment of your most important goals. 

  1. Listening is the doorway to understanding and the bridge to trust.
  2. Expectations of employees when understood drive great performance.
  3. Align employee strengths with organization goals to accelerate results.
  4. Develop employees through coaching and delegation.
  5. Encourage employees with positive and corrective feedback.
  6. Resilience the base for leadership excellence.

 

Big egos have little ears. ~Robert Schuller

Trivial leaders are intoxicated by their own voice. They don’t hear the ideas and concerns of others. Trivial leaders do not value the viewpoints of others or understand the importance of listening. Therefore, the only perspective they have is their own and when things go right they take all the credit and when mistakes are made they blame others.

Trivial leaders who refuse to listen costs their organizations in several ways. Communication breaks down and must be re-accomplished and projects come in over budget and not completed on time. The result organizations lose money each and every month due to mistakes and waste enormous amounts of time. Besides losing money employees face emotional wear and tear causing relationships to become strained which impact performance and productivity.

 

Listening is the doorway to understanding and the bridge to trust. ~John Bentley

Vital leaders listen

Vital leaders begin with the attitude that all people have good intentions and sound reasons for why they are communicating what they are saying.They put people at ease, while letting them know they care and will take appropriate action on employee ideas and concerns.   When people are understood and trusted they will give their best effort and fully invest themselves in their work. 

A vital leader truly listens and pauses after the person finishes speaking to process what was said. The pause allows you to reflect on what was heard or ask a clarifying question letting the person know you were listening. Lastly when people are heard they feel valued and provide creative ways to improve business results and customer WOW!

 

Of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable—and one of the least understood. Most captains of industry listen only sometimes, and they remain ordinary leaders. But a few, the great ones, never stop listening. That’s how they get word before anyone else of unseen problems and opportunities. ~Peter Nulty

Vital Leader Thoughts on Listening

  1. Are you hosting listening session with your employees? If not, the employees may not understand what the organization is doing and the challenges you are facing. Listening sessions allow you to share this information so employees can ask questions and provide ideas and feedback to improve the situation.
  2. When listening, takes notes and show a genuine interest in others and what they think. If you are busy and cannot be interrupted let the individual know you cannot give your undivided attention and energy right now. Next establish a time for the person to come back so you can listen fully and truly value your time together.  
  3. When meeting in your office take the time to unplug the phone and turn off your computer monitor to prevent distractions. This sends a message to the employee that you are important to me!

Please share with us your listen tips to help us become a Vital Leader. Next week I will share my thoughts and experience with understanding employee expectations (the psychological contract) to drive great performance.

Happy Holidays!

During this holiday season more than ever, our thoughts of gratitude turn to all who have made our progress possible and successful.

In this spirit we sincerely say
THANK YOU And BEST WISHES For A Safe And Wonderful Holiday Season.

We look forward to working with you in the New Year!

From all of us at Power 2 Transform!
Sincerely,
John Bentley

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The Cost of an Unhealthy Workforce

With the health of the U.S. economy so much in the news these days, it seems natural to also analyze the health of the average U.S. worker, considering how much influence the latter has on the former. That analysis, considering the current state of the national healthcare system, does not paint a pretty picture.

There are two sides to this issue. The first is the more obvious of the two: the actual cost of healthcare. During the past decade, that cost has skyrocketed in relation to other business costs. In fact, it’s skyrocketed in relation to just about any other product or service, with the possible exception of oil and college tuition. Every year, businesses and corporations have passed more of the cost of their health insurance programs on to their employees. Despite all of this, politicians have been unable to hammer out a workable solution. Read more

Healthy Employees = Productive Employees

Companies are constantly searching for new and better ways in which to increase the productivity of their workforce, and thereby, enhance their bottom line. They try new tactics and strategies, all of which are designed to help employees reach their full potential and maximize their contribution to the company.

However, sometimes the best solutions are the ones that are so readily apparent they go unnoticed. One such solution involves the health and lifestyle choices of the employees in question.

Factors for success . . . or failure

There are many factors that can impact employees’ productivity levels. They include diet, sleep (or lack thereof), stress, morale, and exercise (or lack thereof). A recent survey conducted by ComPsych, the world’s largest provider of employee assistance programs, sheds some interesting light on these factors and how they can negatively—or positively—affect employees.

ComPsych surveyed more than 1,000 employees across the United States during the timeframe of January 1 through February 15, 2008. The survey involved companies of all sizes and those operating in a variety of different industries. Overall, the survey was quite extensive and unearthed a wealth of data. However, in the interest of brevity, we’ll address a few of the more important findings, as they relate to the factors listed above.

• Diet—Of employees with balanced diets, 73% reported having high levels of productivity and 50% reported having high levels of energy.
• Stress—Approximately 70% of employees with poor diets had high levels of stress. In addition, 76% of employees participating in no physical activity reported a high level of stress.
• Exercise—Over 65% of physically active employees reported high productivity levels, and 67% reported high energy levels, as well.
• Morale—Of course, as you might imagine, the three factors listed above can have a profound impact on morale. About 55% of very active employees reported having high morale, and 51% of workers with ideal weight reported the same.

The power of promotion

So . . . what does all of this mean? You might be thinking to yourself, “I already knew this. It doesn’t help me any!” Or perhaps you’re thinking that you can’t force employees to be healthy, so this information constitutes a moot point at best.

But that would be underestimating the power of promotion. There is plenty that a company can do to build and cultivate a corporate culture that promotes a healthy lifestyle. While it’s true that you can’t force an employee to make healthy choices, you can make it easier for them to make those choices. That’s why it’s imperative for company officials to analyze their culture and ask some tough questions:

• Does our culture promote health and well being?
• Do we make it easy for employees to make healthy choices during the workday . . . or difficult?
• How much more productive could we be through promotion and other health-related programs and initiatives?

The evidence is indisputable. Healthy employees are productive employees, but it even goes beyond that. They’re happy employees, as well, and that combination is almost impossible to beat—especially by your competition.

We encourage your participation and comments.

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John Bentley

‘Common Sense Retention’

There are many facets in regards to the all-important issue of employee retention, but perhaps none makes as much sense as the one that we’ll explore in this article.

The reason?

Because it benefits you in ways that go beyond simply retaining your best employees. (And that, all by itself, would be enough.)
There is a crucial mistake that many companies make when they’re delegating tasks to their employees, and even when they’re considering which ones to promote and how to promote them. That mistake is tied to a golden rule of corporate productivity, which is this:
Make sure that everybody in the organization does what they do best.
Simple, right? Well, you’d be surprised at how easily “simple” becomes “complicated.”

An example from The Office

Let’s use an example from the hit television show The Office to illustrate this point. The show is a “mockumentary” about a paper company by the name of Dunder-Mifflin, located in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The manager at this particular branch is Michael Scott. Prior to becoming manager, Michael was a salesman at the Scranton branch. In fact, he was the top salesman at the branch, which is the main reason he was promoted to manager.

That, in a nutshell, was a mistake. Anybody who has seen the show can attest to that. What the Dunder-Mifflin brass did is something that’s actually quite common in the corporate world: they put Michael in a position that does not play to his strengths. What he does best is sell, not manage. Their attempt to “reward” Michael with a promotion clearly backfired. However, Michael occasionally turns his attention away from managing to sales, and when he does, he enjoys success.

Michael Scott should have been promoted to a sales manager position, if he was promoted at all. That would have been best for him and also best for the company, especially his co-workers. Many times within a company, a key employee is moved from what they do best to something else they don’t do nearly as well, and this is often the result of a promotion. It even happens when a candidate is first hired.

Because the candidate has an expanded skill set (and there are more than one openings available), the company might be tempted to bring them in for a position that’s outside their range of expertise, a position that’s perhaps more managerial in nature. Unless this is truly an exemplary individual, the strategy is almost certain to backfire. Below are the two main reasons why it will:

• As a general rule, what people do best they enjoy the most. If the employee is not able to pursue their passion, they will eventually become disenchanted.

• The company is hurt on two different levels. First, the employee isn’t doing what they do best, so the company loses productivity. Second, the employee is becoming disenchanted, which means they’ll lose their drive and motivation, further causing productivity to suffer.

The silver lining

Despite all the doom and gloom portrayed to this point, there is a silver lining. By ensuring that everybody within the organization is doing what they do best and playing to their strengths, you can raise your retention rate drastically. When a person is doing what they do best—what they truly love to do and have a passion for—there’s practically no way to tear them away from it. Even money won’t do the trick, unless they can be convinced that the new situation will be identical in every way to their current one.

And this is a classic “two-for-one” bargain, because it also means that these employees will be infinitely more productive, as well. So not only will your retention rate increase, the company will make more profit and continue to grow for the foreseeable future, since your best candidates are locked in, happily doing what they love to do. That truly is the best of both worlds.

This type of “common sense retention” falls under the category of “can’t see the forest for the trees” syndrome, and some of you might be saying to yourself, “Of course that’s the best way to retain employees!” However, the hustle and bustle of the corporate world has a way of clouding even the best of intentions, to the point of distraction. So review every member of your team, and make sure that you can identify the one thing that they do better than anything else. Once you’ve done that, then make certain that their role within the company fully embraces that one thing.

Because as funny as Michael Scott might be—intentionally or not—his situation is better left to television and not the real world.
We encourage your participation and comments.

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Building the Best ‘Before-and-After’ Experience

In our previous post about retention, we discussed the importance of helping your best employees to grow, mainly by giving them the proper amount of attention. This provides them with the experience they crave, thereby increasing your rate of retention. In this, our next article in the retention series, we’re going to take a small step backward for the purpose of going forward.

That small step involves what the candidate hears during the interview process vs. what they experience after accepting the offer and starting their employment. This “before-and-after” dynamic is crucial to the overall retention experience, and it’s all the more crucial because many employers don’t take the time to examine what type of experience they’re providing for their new employees. And then they wonder why they take another job after only three months.

It’s human nature

The “before-and-after” experience is a smaller component of the larger, more complex subject of onboarding, which we’ll be discussing in future articles. However, it differs from onboarding in the respect that it continues for a greater length of time after the candidate becomes an employee—for at least the three-month period mentioned above, and perhaps even longer.

What it comes down to is this: you have to pay as much attention to what you say and do both before the candidate is hired and after they’re hired as the candidate does. The fact of the matter is that the majority of company officials fail to do that. The reason? They don’t have the time to do it, or perhaps more accurately, they think they don’t have the time. Sure, everybody’s busy, but those people willing to apply energy to critical areas are the ones that will be more successful in the long run, and providing the best experience to candidates in this situation is most definitely critical.

You see, an employee is mentally comparing and contrasting what you say about the company and the position during the interview process with what they experience after they’re hired. They do this either consciously or subconsciously. (It’s human nature . . . there’s no way around it.) And if the notes they compare don’t match, then the experience you’re providing is ultimately a negative one.

Consequently, your chances of retaining that employee decrease dramatically.

A hierarchy of needs

Okay, so what are some of the areas about which employees take (and compare) mental notes? There are a few, to be sure, but there’s also a hierarchy of importance:

• Job requirements—This is the one that can cause you the most damage. Nothing will deflate a new employee more quickly than discovering that what they were told about their new position during the interview was nothing like it actually is once they started the job.

• Company culture—Telling a candidate during the interview stage that they won’t be expected to work past 5 p.m. isn’t wise if the company culture is one that dictates—in an unwritten fashion—that longer hours are not only encouraged, but expected.

• Perks—This could include the availability of a company car, the number of holidays the company observes each year, the amount of vacation time afforded new employees, or even the details of their health insurance plan.

• Miscellaneous expectations—If the new employee has been told that they’ll meet with their immediate supervisor for an hour every week for the first four weeks of their employment, and that doesn’t happen, then their expectations were not met. This category can include a host of other things, including what equipment you’re providing the employee, the length of their lunch break, the company’s policy regarding personal phone calls, etc.

There are two measures that you can undertake to ensure that you’re providing the best “before-and-after” experience. The first is to meticulously write down what you tell candidates during the interview process and then consult the list in the weeks after the candidate begins employment. Keep an eye out for any discrepancies. The second measure is to conduct a “post-interview” with the employee and inquire as to whether or not their expectations are being met.

This is probably the more difficult of the two measures, since there’s a prevailing company mindset that stipulates new employees “must prove themselves.” (That’s why companies have a probation period.)
What many company officials fail to realize, though, is that they’re on probation, too, as is the company in general. Not only does the employee have something to prove, but in a way, you do, as well. By realizing this and addressing it in a pro-active fashion, you can enhance the experience that new employees receive and dramatically improve both their satisfaction and your overall rate of retention.

We encourage your participation and comments.

Also, please feel free to forward this blog to your friends and colleagues and to come back often.

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John Bentley

Helping Your Best Employees Grow

Providing a positive experience for your employees is the best way in which to increase retention within your team, your department, or your company. In this article, we’re going to address a specific way you can provide that experience, and it involves giving your best employees the proper amount of attention.

This is important for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it’s human nature to not pay enough attention to your best employees and top performers. Why is that? Because they’re usually self-motivated go-getters who need no prompting or anybody looking over their shoulder. As a result, managers don’t feel the need to interact with them as much, or to “check up on them,” if you will.

This gives the manager more flexibility and more freedom to tackle other issues. After all, there never seems to be enough time to get things done. If you have a select number of employees who are high achievers, people who need a minimum of supervision, it only makes sense to leave them be and let them do their jobs, right? To a certain degree, that’s correct, but if that philosophy is taken too far, it can prove disastrous in terms of retention.

The 20-80-20 rule

For superstar employees, a positive experience with the company includes the opportunity for professional growth.
If they don’t believe that they’re growing in their current position and that they’re working toward something bigger and better, than they’re going to think about leaving. Even if they like everything else about their job—including their boss—feeling as though there’s nowhere to grow will prompt them to begin contemplating whether or not the grass is really greener on the other side.

With that in mind, here’s a practical strategy for solving two problems at once. Let’s say that your team or department adheres to the standard 20-80-20 rule, meaning that 20% of your employees are superstars, 80% are competent but not spectacular, and another 20% are bringing up the rear. Instead of spending precious time and energy attempting to motivate the bottom 20%, cut them loose and upgrade their positions by replacing them with star candidates.

By doing that, you’ve already increased the overall quality of your team. In addition, you’ve created extra time for yourself, since you don’t have to devote it to your underachievers. You can now take that time and put it to better use. For example, you can focus on your top 20% and discover what their professional needs and career goals are.

Involve yourself now

This may sound a bit simplistic, but the best way in which to do this is by asking them. Not in casual conversation, of course, but behind closed doors during a formal meeting. It shouldn’t be an intensive, pressure-packed meeting, though. It should be one that fully engages the employee and makes them feel comfortable enough to broach topics they might not bring up themselves. Below is a loose blueprint for how you should conduct this meeting.
• Ask what their expectations are for their employment with the company. This type of open-ended question may prompt a response you didn’t expect, but that’s information you need to know.
• Ask what their career goals and objectives are.
• Ask what the company can do in order to help them achieve their goals.
• Begin to formulate a concrete plan based upon their responses to the above questions.
• Plan to meet on a consistent basis in the future in order to gauge progress and set additional goals.

Star employees think about their career ambitions all the time. It’s in their nature. So if that’s the case, then it makes sense to be part of their thought process and to be involved in their plans for the future.

If you don’t make sure that your company is involved now, you increase the chances that it won’t be involved down the road.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Copyright protected, all rights reserved worldwide. ©Gary Sorrell – www.NewsletterVille.com

We encourage your participation and comments.

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John Bentley

Why Do People Leave Their Job?

Experience-Based Retention
• Is it because of money,
• Benefits, or
• The fact they believe there are no real opportunities for them at the company?

While many might argue about which of the above has more impact on whether or not a person decides to jump ship, attempting to identify the main overall culprit is probably the least productive approach to increasing retention. Why? Because while studies may show that one factor carries more weight than another, those same studies also show that all of the factors have the ability to influence people to some degree.

So that means by focusing solely on the main culprit—whatever it might be—your retention plan is only as good as the number of people in your company who are primarily affected by that factor. Which means that it’s nowhere close to being 100% effective.

People and Situations

Are you going to retain every person you hire? Of course not. The key is to retain those people you want to keep, those employees who make a difference and contribute a tremendous amount to the company in numerous ways. And in order to retain those superstar employees, you have to consider what kind of experience you’re providing them.

Life is nothing more than a series of experiences, and people respond to them in a rather predictable fashion. They strive to avoid negative experiences, and they tend to gravitate toward positive ones. That rule certainly applies to people. After all, people provide an experience, don’t they? I’m sure you could identify people in your life who provide negatives experiences and people who provide positive ones.

Which Ones Do You Try To Avoid?

The same holds true for an employment situation. If people aren’t receiving a positive experience in their job, they’re going to try to find a new one. The challenge is to ensure that they’re receiving that positive experience. However, there are two aspects of this challenge to keep in mind: Experiences are very person-specific.

In other words, what one person believes is a positive experience might not be the case for another person. Employees are not apt to come right out and tell you what constitutes a positive experience for them. Unless you have a very outgoing and highly communicative person on your team, you’ll have to gather that information yourself.

Productivity and Profitability

As you might imagine, there are many different components to an experience, especially an employment experience. The good news is, there are ways to not only account for all of them, but also to ensure that you’re addressing them in a way that will create positive experiences with your team and increase retention.

In future posts, we’re going to identify and discuss these different components, how they affect the overall employment experience and why, and how your understanding of them can help you to maximize the productivity—not to mention the profitability—of your team.

We encourage your participation and comments.

Also, please feel free to forward this blog to your friends and colleagues and to come back often.
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Discover Why Great Leaders Challenge Success

As you look at why people and companies are successful, you quickly realize that they question everything.
WHY?

If you don’t know why you are successful, and what helped get you there, you may be doomed for failure.
Great leaders know this fact and constantly question, challenge, test, and duplicate their successes.
Here are some tips to help you become more successful:
• Customer surveys and group meetings. Implement an annual or bi-annual survey of your customers and find out what they like, what they don’t like, and what you can improve. Another effective way to illicit this information is to have meetings with your customers and brainstorm ways to improve. (Think about what Ford did with the Taurus. The vehicle was a direct result of consumer’s suggestions). Pay close attention to the customers that are unhappy. Let them speak about what they would like to see improved. Then fix it. Whenever possible, allow employees and key personnel to be present.

• Conduct an external assessment of the competition. Take a look at what they offer and what improvements they are making. Ask your staff:
* Who are our competitors?
* Are they better?
* Why are they better?
* Are we better?
* Do they have a bigger share of the market?
* Why?
* How can we improve to become better than our competitors?
* Who can put us out of business?

• Conduct an internal assessment. Survey your employees and find out what improvement(s) they think you should make. (Internally and externally) Have them brainstorm ideas for improvements. You may be surprised at the suggestions and ideas that your own employees have. Another key to making this effective is to make sure you respond to the suggestions.

• Accept and prepare for change. The only constant today is change. Create a culture within your company to embrace change and anticipate future changes.

* Is your market place changing?
* Any new products being introduce that is a direct competitor to you?
* Any new competitors entering your arena?
* Will new technology affect your product/service?

The best leaders are those who are not satisfied with complacency. Encourage everyone in your organization to keep informed in your industry and be prepared to make the necessary changes to get and stay on top.

We encourage your participation and comments.
Also, please feel free to forward this blog to your friends and colleagues and to come back often.

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Sincerely,
John Bentley